This report, launched at the Bank of England in November 2019, reveals that millions of adults lack basic numeracy skills, leaving them unprepared for the workplace and everyday life. There has been no progress in meeting targets set 20 years ago by the government’s then Chief Statistician Lord Moser, who called for a reversal of the decline in the basic skills deficit by 2010.
Multiple data sources have been analysed to produce the new body of evidence, including an analysis of psychological factors in over 55,000 adults using the National Numeracy Challenge.
Key findings include that:
- A quarter of adults have ‘acceptable’ levels of numeracy, with around half at the level expected of a primary school child.
- Business leaders significantly undervalued the cost of poor numeracy to the UK, estimating a cost of £7 million per week vs the actual £388 million.
- Over 90% of both business leaders and MPs agreed that there needs to be a renewed focus on adult numeracy from government and employers.
- Confidence with numbers was found to be the dominant factor linked to numeracy score.
- Having the belief that you can improve your skills was found to be the biggest indicator that your numeracy score would improve.
National Numeracy recommends:
- For policymakers to initiate a major new ‘Fresh Start for Adult Numeracy’ initiative. This could take the form of a national campaign to build the nation’s confidence with numbers, and follow influential examples from fitness and wellbeing, such as ‘This Girl Can’.
- For business leaders to recognise this critical national issue and enable their staff to work towards getting the Essentials of Numeracy , and show their support for National Numeracy Day.
- For everyone to understand that they can improve their numeracy skills, in the same way that everyone can get physically fitter.